"Somerville is Like Family"
A Conversation with our new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Dr. Almudena “Almi” Abeyta.
What drew you to the Somerville Public Schools district?
From the mayor to the superintendent to the school committee, there is support for education. Somerville really values education. That's so important for moving the work forward, particularly for an assistant superintendent, which is a job I know well and I've done in two other districts.
I love the diversity here. I like the types of challenges we face in a diverse district and enjoy the challenge of improving education for all students. I think students benefit from diversity because when they go into the work force and the world, they are participating in a global society. Exposing students to different cultures and thinking provides a more robust educational exchange of ideas in the classroom.
What are your first impressions?
A staff member told me that ‘Somerville is like family.’ I’m excited to work in a district where the people care about each other and students. There is this culture of 'care' and that's unique.
How have you started your first year?
I’ve been listening and learning. I’ve met with central office staff, cabinet-level staff, high school department heads and principals. It’s important when you start out in a position that you understand what works well and that one understands the contexts.
What have you learned so far?
Somerville Public Schools is a healthy climate and the principals feel supported by central office. I see the importantce of supporting and coaching principals because the work of the principal is difficult and at the same time are the second key lever to change to improveming a school. The job Mary [Superintendent Skipper] and I have is to work with a really good school system and find ways to improve it to make it great.
What is your focus for the near future?
I see my role as coming alongside Mary and helping her pursue her vision. I’d like to help her support principals and central office staff to became a real partner.
We want our students to have options when they graduate. If they decide they want to go to college, they should have the skill set to be successful in college. If students want to go straight into the workforce, they should be well prepared. We need to ensure our kids graduate and that they're not dropping out of school. We also need to be intentional about meeting the explicit needs of our high performing students.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’ve always had my head in a book. Over the last ten years, I was busy on my graduate work for my master degree and my doctorate. I graduated in 2013. My other focus is my daughter, who is an accomplished figure skater and dancer. And I love my little Yorkshire Terrier.
You just returned to the Boston area from your native New Mexico to work in Somerville. Was there anything you missed about Boston?
Seafood and pizza. I’m also a sports fan. I knew I was turning into a real Bostonian when I started following the Bruins. Ice hockey is not something I grew up with in New Mexico!
R. Ronen, Communications Specialist